2020 has been a year where working towards and contributing to something greater than yourself has never been more impactful or more crucial. The Detroit Lions recognized this and while the way in which they have traditionally worked in the community wasn't possible for much of the year they found new, innovative and important ways to make their presence felt.
Detroit Lions Inspire Change, the Lions social justice initiative, enacted true trailblazing moments in 2020. Most notably, the team staged a practice walkout in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. that gave way to other sports teams across North American leagues following the Lions' lead. Lions Legend Joique Bell helped to organize the Belle Isle Freedom March over the summer and several current players and Lions coaches participated to demonstrate their commitment to and support of social equality.
The Lions were also exceptionally involved in a voter awareness and participation campaign for the State of Michigan, Detroit Votes, which was part of the greater NFL Votes platform. This included a RISE to Vote voter townhall with Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson as well as hosting seven of the City of Detroit's 12 receiving boards at Ford Field on Election Night to protect the integrity of votes cast in-person at more than half of Detroit's precincts.
Other 2020 Detroit Lions Inspire Change events in support of their pillars of scholarship funding, social-educational programs and medical aid/health assistance were: participation in the 100 Black Men Panel, a private movie screening for Detroit Lions Academy students of Harriet, an Empowerment Plan coat distribution, a Pure Heart panel to empower the children of incarcerated parents, a virtual Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) practice visit and a HAVEN-facilitated domestic violence training for players and staff.
With Michigan greatly affected by COVID-19, the Lions made providing relief a priority. In the early days of the pandemic, the organization gave a financial donation to Detroit Public Schools Community District to support efforts to get students needed resources for learning at home. In April, the team provided $50,000 in funding for Empowerment Plan to re-open their facility operations to manufacture medical gowns. The Lions also held two food truck rallies feeding more than 2,000 hospital workers on the frontline fighting COVID-19.
During the NFL Draft in May, the Lions selected Feeding America as financial beneficiary for the Draft-A-Thon which culminated with a $500,000 donation.
FOCUS ON YOUTH IN MICHIGAN
Though Detroit Lions Charities youth-focused outreach looked different this year, the team safely moved forward with hallmark programming like Touchdown in Your Town and Robot Garage learning at Detroit Lions Academy.
Detroit Lions Touchdown in Your Town presented by Kroger was a highlight as 2020 marked the first year applications were open to deserving high schools in need of football equipment. The Lions selected six high school football programs throughout Michigan and distributed nearly $211,000 in resources including financial support, Riddell SpeedFlex helmet and chocolate milk grants from the United Dairy Industry of Michigan. The student athletes from the selected schools also participated in a virtual panel with Lions Legends and current players who offered advice and insight on overcoming adversity and succeeding on and off the field.
To finish out the year and celebrate the holidays, the Lions surprised Detroit Lions Academy students at home with presents from their wish list delivered by team mascot Roary. The Pure Heart Foundation was also gifted holiday presents to spread cheer.
From the beginning of 2020 down to the last few weeks, the Lions championed Detroit and its surrounding communities through one of the hardest years in recent memory.